Sergeant William Joseph Devenney 33367015 served in the United States Army Air Force during the Second World War. He was born on 17th February 1922 in Carbon County, Pennsylvania, USA. William was the son of Joseph Devenney, later of 85 North Street, Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.
He had two older brothers who both served and survived the Second World War. John P Devenney (13069632) was born in 1915 and enlisted as a Private on 17th March 1942. James A Devenney (32499358) was born in 1920 and enlisted as a Private on 10th September 1942.
Life in Pennsylvania
In the US, William worked as a brakeman for the Central Railroad Company of New Jersey on the Lehigh and Susquehanna Division lines. The lines ran from Mauch Chunk to Easton before joining the main central railroad lines. As a brakeman, Devenney would have assisted in halting the train, checking couplings, lining switches, checking cargo and removing stowaways.
On 9th December 1942, he enlisted for service as a Private in the United States Army Air Corps in Allentown, Pennsylvania. After initial training at home, he shipped out to No. 3 Combat Crew Replacement Centre Group at Toome Airfield, Co. Antrim for final training before posting to a combat unit. They came under command of 8th Air Force Composite Command at Kircassock House, Magheralin, Co. Down.
B26 Marauder Crash at Chimney Rock
At 1445hrs on 10th April 1944, three B26 Marauders took off from Toome Airfield, Co. Antrim on a gunnery training mission. 2nd Lieutenant Richard A Newman flew the lead plane. Lieutenant Eugene G Wegman flew right wingman in ‘Jezabelle’ 41-18054. 2nd Lieutenant Howell C Osborne Jr flew left wingman in ‘Winnie Dee’ 41-18150.
Sergeant William Joseph Devenney was a radio operator and gunner on Osborne’s plane. Visibility on the day was around four miles with stratus clouds at 1,000 feet, overcast with breaks, and reported haze. Around 1530hrs, 2nd Lieutenant Osborne circled over the Irish Sea, around 3 miles east of Kilkeel, Co. Down. His aim was to get out of a cloud bank forming around the Mourne Mountains. Flying out of position, he was between 1200 and 1500 feet behind and 400 feet below the other two Marauders when he disappeared into the cloud.
2nd Lieutenant Newman made two attempts to contact Osborne to no avail. The plane had crashed on the south-west side of Chimney Rock Mountain near Newcastle, Co. Down in the Mourne Mountains.
Aftermath of the incident
The ‘Winnie Dee’ crew of five was listed as missing after the incident. There were no survivors. A United States Army 5th Infantry Division on a routine hike discovered the wreckage on Chimney Rock Mountain several days later. Official confirmation reached 364th Service Squadron on 15th April 1944.
[Osborne] made an error in technique by permitting himself to get too far out of position in formation and that the pilot made an error in judgment by flying into clouds in a known mountainous area.
Major George Commenator, Accident Report, 21st April 1944.
The ‘Winnie Dee’ Marauder B26 was earlier retired from front-line service as a “war-weary” plane. This may explain why it struggled to keep up with the other two planes in the formation.
Remembering the crew of Winnie Dee
|Last Name||First Name(s)||Rank||Role||Information|
|Osborne||Howell C||2nd Lieutenant||Pilot||USAAF 0-685276. From Arkansas.|
|Turner||Chester M||2nd Lieutenant||2nd Pilot||USAAF 0-753462. From Cowley County, Kansas.|
|Cappe||Roy R||Staff Sergeant||Aerial Engineer||USAAF 13041696. From Allegheny County, Pennsylvania.|
|Gyovai||Jimmie||Sergeant||Air Gunner||USAAF 15337609. From Boone County, West Virginia.|
|Devenney||William Joseph||Sergeant||Air Gunner||USAAF 33367015. From Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.|
The United States Army Graves Registration recovered the crew and brought them to Wilton’s Funeral Home, 255 Crumlin Road, Belfast, Co. Antrim. All funerals took place at Wilton’s Funeral Chapel. The 5 Americans were buried in Class A Uniforms at Lisnabreeny American Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Down with full military honours.
Sergeant William Joseph Devenney’s original grave was at Plot B, Row 2, Grave 8 in Lisnabreeny American Cemetery, Belfast, Co. Down. His funeral took place on 20th April 1944. After the decommissioning of the Lisnabreeny site, exhumation took place on 11th November 1947. On 21st September 1948, Devenney was reburied in Plot D, Row 2, Grave 100 of the Cambridge American Cemetery and Memorial, Madingley, Cambridge, UK. His name features on the Soldiers and Sailors Monument in Mauch Chunk, Pennsylvania.